November 13, 2008

Cuts vs. Cuts

Question for the day: If a school district is facing cuts, is it better to cut teachers or is it better to cut programs? More specifically, which is better for the students? With Gov. David Paterson's intention to cut state aid to schools, we're going to find out which option is better. Of course, there is always the fallback option of simply continuing to raise school taxes, but considering that our county is already the highest taxed county (when taken as a percentage of home values) in the country, and based on the fact that the overwhelming majority of that ranking is driven by our ridiculously high school tax burden, one would hope that raising school taxes even higher would not be an option.

Traditionally when a school district is facing cuts, well, we all know the song and dance. The teachers rally together and strike fear into the community. They spew their propaganda about how these cuts will harm the children, how they won't be able to take field trips, how the extracurricular sports will be slashed, how the biology club won't have frogs to dissect, how the school newspaper won't be able to afford the paper to print on and so on and so on. The school administrators will talk about the need to cut positions.

So which is the lesser evil for the kids? If positions are cut, the number of children in the classroom will increase. I'm okay with that. When I was in school, classes had 30-32 kids per class. These days, classes have 23-26 kids per class. The kids in the larger classes usually turned out okay. Do they get as much one-on-one attention? Of course not. But as those of us in the private sector know, and something those in the public sector are amazingly incapable of comprehending, organizations are being forced to do more with less. It's not by choice, it's the harsh reality of difficult economic times. On the flip side, some will advocate cutting programs.

What you will never hear is concessions from the teachers. Not a willingness to take a zero percent pay hike and not a desire to contribute a few bucks to their health insurance.

Either way, the kids will get the short end of the stick. In all likelihood, you can include us, the taxpayers, in there too.

With some of our recent posts talking about consolidation, I've never heard of any substantive conversations about consolidating school districts. As we've stated previously, there are more kids in the Buffalo School District, which is a small city district, than there are in all of Niagara County's schools, and we have what, 11 districts? Someone in education please explain the efficiency in that.

So, prepare yourself for the onslaught of information, ads and protests. The coming weeks will be just like election season when SEIU, CSEA, UAW, CWA, NYSUT, AFSCME, the WFP and every other glutton sucking off the public teet comes calling for more of your tax dollars.


Hog Rider said...

While I agree with most of what your saying, I say look at some of the outlandish salaries, Retirement packages in the Administrative ranks. Even when they retire they are brought back at diferent levels, which to me is almost like double dipping. Do we really need a principal on every floor in North Tonawanda?

George Lodick said...

Just a quick comment - When is a decrease in the rate of increase a "cut"?

From the news reports I've heard so far, Patterson proposed a 4% rollback of the anticipated 9% funding increase. So, isn't there still 5% more state funding on its way?

Perhaps I've misunderstood the reports on Patterson's proposal.

Only in government speak can a reduction in spending growth be call a cut.

Barney said...

All this and the "Fat Cat" supervisor from Lewiston voted for his 37% pay increase.

Mr. Pink said...

I'm usually a fiscal hawk, but Hobbes I disagree on this one because I think you're missing an important point. Paterson signed off on a state budget that gave school districts a certain amount of aid. Due to that aid, voters approved all school budgets likely as most schools had zero to small tax increases.

Now, six months into the year when classes are set and programs are running, the Governor drops a bomb like this. This can completely upset the apple cart of education across the state. Take elementary school...half way through the year are you going to lay off that first-grade teacher? How will the six-year-olds react to that?

I can understand the need to make tough decisions and school districts shouldn't be immune to that. But changing the rules in the middle of the school year is a the real disservice to students.